The Pennsylvania ARD Program & Mass. DUI Cases

PENNDOTThe State of Pennsylvania has an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for those who are arrested for a first offense DUI.  One of the purposes of this DUI program is to allow qualified first offenders the ability to earn a “clean record” upon program completion. Participation in the program is not automatic and it is up to the District Attorney’s Office to agree to the ARD program.

When DUI charges are dismissed after a drunk driving defendant completes the Pennsylvania Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, the Jude presiding over the case can order expungement of the defendant’s arrest record. The expungement is governed by the PA Criminal History Record Act, 18 Pa.C.S. §  9122 and Vehicle Code, § §  1534(b) & 3807.

Expungement of an arrest record will not necessarily save a Massachusetts Resident or License Holder from a license suspension resulting from the Pennsylvania DUI. This is because once the information is transmitted to Massachusetts by PennDOT, the Registry of Motor Vehicles can add it to a driver’s record and it is not bound by any out of state expungement order. Also, the PA Dept. of Transportation has the legal authority to maintain a record of a DUI offender’s acceptance into the ARD program for a period of ten (10) years. Therefore, when it comes to an out of state license suspension resulting from a drunk driving offense, expungement may be of little value. PennDOT will maintain records of the DUI for 10 years and, once communicated to the Mass. RMV, a license suspension will be imposed.

If an ARD program participant is arrested for another DUI within the 10 year lookback period, the DWI will be treated as a second offense. A second offense carries mandatory jail time of between 5 and 90 days depending on your blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest.

When the 10 year look back period expires, PennDOT will automatically expunge its records of the DUI incident, so long as there was no habitual traffic offender revocation and/or the offender was not a CDL holder at the time of the DUI. However, if the offense was added to your Massachusetts Driver History, the RMV will maintain the record permanently and the PA expungement law will not require MassDOT to remove the entry from your Massachusetts record. This is because Massachusetts has a lifetime lookback period for operating under the influence convictions or alcohol program assignments.

The National Driver Register

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation oversees the National Driver Register (NDR). This national database contains information regarding drivers who have had their licenses or driving privileges suspended, revoked, blocked, or otherwise taken away. The NDR records only point to records maintained by state motor vehicle departments such as the Driver Control Unit of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Also, the NDR contains only identification information and not complete historical information. The state DMV records contain the substantive information regarding the actual license suspension or revocation.

The federal law governing the NDR mandates that all state motor vehicle departments and driver licensing officials must submit information regarding individuals whose right to drive a motor vehicle has been denied, suspended or revoked for cause, or who have been convicted of certain serious traffic related violations, such as DUI.

You have a right to request for any information regarding your driving record that may be contained in the National Driver Register by sending a written request to the NDR. If your status in the NDR is “ELG” or ELIGIBLE, this means that your privilege to drive in a particular state is valid. If your NDR status is “NOT,” this means that your privilege to drive is invalid. You would need to contact the department of motor vehicles to obtain the specific details relating to your NDR record(s). A NDR status of LIC means that you’re licensed in a particular state. The NDR code NEN means that your right to drive is invalid due to non-moving violations.

Although States use the NDR as part of their driver licensing process, it is the responsibility of each state’s motor vehicle agency, such as the Mass. RMV, to ensure the accuracy of the data submitted to the NDR. The NDR functions as the repository of the data it but can make no changes to this information. This is because each state’s DMV maintains the sale responsibility for the issuance and renewal of all driver licenses, which includes suspension/revocation actions that have been taken against your right to operate. Reinstatement requirements must be resolved directly with any state DMV which has taken the action against your license or driving privileges.

If the Massachusetts RMV is involved, you may contact a lawyer who specializes in Registry cases, such as Attorney Brian E. Simoneau.

Connecticut DUI Triggers Massachusetts Suspension

Being a Massachusetts Resident or License holder and being charged with operating under the influence (OUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) in another state can expose the unlucky motorist to license suspension consequences in both the state where the DUI occurred and in Massachusetts. This is because the interstate compact requires motor vehicle departments across the country to notify the DMV in a driver’s home state whenever the driver is convicted of DUI or a “like offense,” meaning anything substantially similar to DUI. Notification can be accomplished directly or through the National Driver Register which is a centralized database of DUI and other related driver’s license suspensions and revocations.

To further complicate the out of state DUI situation, each state has different ways of dealing with DUI offenses. In Massachusetts, for example, first offense operating under the influence charges are dealt with pursuant to G.L. c. 90 § 24D.  Some states mandate ignition interlock devices for first offenders, while others do not. States also treat breathalyzer refusals differently and some states have hardship licensing while others do not.

Pursuant to Conn. Gen.Stat. § 54–56g, the State of Connecticut has a pretrial DUI diversion program which is similar to the Mass. 24D program. Under the Connecticut program, a qualified DUI offender can earn a dismissal of the criminal drunk driving by successfully completing the alcohol education program. To be eligible for the alternative OUI disposition program in Massachusetts,  the defendant must admit that there were facts sufficient to support a conviction for operating under the influence. The Connecticut pretrial diversion program has no such requirement. Nevertheless, in the case of Scheffler v. Board of Appeal on Motor Vehicle Liability Policies and Bonds, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that a Connecticut DUI which is resolved pursuant to their alcohol diversion program is the same as a Massachusetts DUI conviction for license suspension, revocation, and hardship licensing purposes.  Scheffler tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the Board of Appeal that the Registrar of Motor Vehicles should not have added the Connecticut DUI to his Massachusetts Driving Record, upon which MassDOT relies for the imposition of license suspensions and revocations as  well as determinations regarding ignition interlock device requirements.

Out of State Suspensions for Massachusetts Drivers

When you receive a notice of intent to suspend your driver’s license from the Mass. DOT, which refers to an indefinite NDR suspension imposed pursuant to Chapter 90, Section 22(c), you must take certain steps to reinstate your Massachusetts Driver’s License.

You need to Contact the state or country’s Motor Vehicle Department listed in the letter which you received from the RMV and obtain a recent letter of Clearance and/or Reinstatement, not more than 30 days old which states that your right to drive in that state has been reinstated or restored

You need to obtain a recent copy of your driving record from the state where the suspension originated, not more than 30 days old.

If you have been convicted of Operating While Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs or Vehicular Homicide, you will be required to obtain and submit, to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles court abstract(s) regarding the DUI or motor vehicle homicide charges.

You must file all of the above-listed documentation with a full service Massachusetts Registry branch office.

Upon receipt of this information, the Mass. RMV will clear the indefinite NDR (National Driver Register) revocation.  However, the Registry will add any out of state DUI convictions or other convictions for motor vehicle law violations onto your Massachusetts Driving Record. The addition of these convictions to your record will trigger additional suspensions or revocation in accordance with Chapter 90, Section 22(c), which requires the RMV to treat out of state motor vehicle convictions, including DUI, committed by Massachusetts residents or license holders as if they had occurred in Massachusetts, for the purposes of license suspensions and revocations. Depending on your record, adding these out of state violations to your Massachusetts Driving History could result in the imposition of substantial license suspensions.

If Mass. DOT suspends your license or right to drive as a result of a NDR indefinite revocation, at the time of your license reinstatement you will be required to pay a $100.00 reinstatement fee to MassDOT.

You should contact a lawyer if you need assistance in dealing with an indefinite NDR revocation in Massachusetts due to a suspension/revocation received by the Mass. Registrar from another state or country.


No Hardship License for NDR Indefinite Suspensions

A gentleman recently appeared before the Board of Appeal with a lawyer to attempt to get hardship relief on a National Driver Register (NDR) indefinite suspension, which originated out of Rhode Island, for a chemical test refusal. In Rhode Island, refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test is a civil violation, for which sanctions are imposed.

I found it strange that this attorney would have come before the Board during the pendency of an active out of state suspension, especially where his client was not afforded any hardship relief in Rhode Island, where the breathalyzer refusal suspension originated. This is because the RI DMV does not issue hardship, limited, restricted, or work licenses under any circumstances.

Further, the client was recently laid off from his job as an engineer and he’s collecting unemployment assistance. Thus, this applicant for a hardship license does not have an employment-related hardship. The Massachusetts Appeals Board does not grant work licenses to the unemployed. Instead, the Board requires a letter from the applicant’s employer, proof of self employment, or  documented job offer stating that the applicant would be hired if her or she obtains a hardship license.

Next, the lawyer claimed that all of the Rhode Island records associated with the DUI have been expunged and destroyed. This argument overlooks the fact that any expungement or sealing does not apply to Massachusetts records or the block in the National Driver Register. The official records of the Registrar showed that the applicant was arrested for DUI and refused a breath test. They also showed that the man was indefinitely blocked in the National Driver Register. Under reciprocity, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts is required to give full faith and credit to this NDR block. Under these circumstances, the Board of Appeal will not force the Registry to override the NDR block and issue a hardship license. Instead, the client must satisfy the RI DMV and get the NDR indefinite hold removed. Only when the NDR reflects that he is eligible, can the Registry grant him driver’s license.

Incidentally, this out of state DUI will trigger a 1 year suspension in Massachusetts, under the law that requires the RMV to treat out of state DUI offenses as if they had occurred here in the Commonwealth. It may be possible to reduce this 1 year suspension or get a hardship license, once the RI NDR block is removed.

Mass. Hardship Licenses & SR-22 Requirements

When a person’s driver’s license or right to drive in suspended or revoked for DUI in the State of New Hampshire, the NH DMV will require proof of “financial responsibility,” which is evidence of liability insurance in the form of a certificate issued by an automobile insurance company which is licensed to serve customers in the State of New Hampshire. This evidence of coverage is known as an “SR-22,” which is a standard insurance industry certificate. The purpose of the SR-22, which must be certified by your insurance provider, is to certify that the driver, who has a drunk driving conviction on his or her record, is covered by adequate liability coverage.  The basis for requiring this is to insure that money is available to compensate accident victims in the event of a future property damage or personal injury accident.

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles does not require SR-22 certificates, because G.L. c. 90 § 34J requires all drivers to carry liability insurance.

There are two types of liability insurance, “owner” and “non-owner.” The New Hampshire DMV accepts both types of SR-22 certificates. However, the certificate must state either “any vehicles owned by the insured” or “any vehicles operated by the insured.”

For drivers licensed in Massachusetts, getting an SR-22 can be difficult. Problems arise because insurance companies are legally allowed to cancel the policies of those who have had their licenses suspended or revoked and it is impossible to get an SR-22 without an insurance policy in effect. To further compound this problem, the Massachusetts Registry will not reinstate your license, or consider you for a hardship license, without proof of clearance from the New Hampshire DMV.  To address this problem, the Mass. RMV has developed a “workaround,” whereby it may be possible to temporarily reinstate your right to drive in Massachusetts, so that you can get insurance coverage and the SR-22 which the New Hampshire DMV requires. To begin this process, to get either a full license or limited Massachusetts hardship license, you must get a “catch 22” letter from the Financial Responsibility Unit of the New Hampshire DMV stating that the only reason why your right to operate in New Hampshire is revoked is due to the failure to file an SR-22 certificate. You must present this limited clearance letter to a hearings officer at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to get the National Driver Register Indefinite hold removed.

If you need help getting an SR-22 issue resolved, so that you can apply for a DUI Hardship License, please contact Attorney Brian E. Simoneau by completing the contact form on this site.

Clearing a NH Suspension Triggered by a Mass. Event

When an incident in Massachusetts causes the loss of your New Hampshire driver’s license or operating privileges, you are usually provided with 30 days within which to resolve the matter, before the indefinite New Hampshire suspension / revocation takes effect. You can prevent the loss of your driver’s license by clearing the out of state requirements and presenting the notification of reinstatement from the Mass. DOT to the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles prior to the effective date of the indefinite suspension.

The NH DMV, Bureau of Financial Responsibility, which handles suspension  and restorations, charges a $100.00 license/operating privilege restoration fee if the National Driver Register (NDR) suspension/revocation remains in effect for over 15 days. By law, your driver’s license or operating privileges cannot be restored until this mandatory reinstatement fee is paid in full.

When your New Hampshire driving privilege has been suspended or revoked you cannot legally drive any type of motor vehicle. If you have a new Hampshire driver’s license it must be surrendered immediately to the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles. Failure to surrender a suspended or revoked license in New Hampshire can result in a continued suspension/revocation at the rate of one day for each day of non compliance. If your license expires during this period of suspension or revocation, you will have to file a license application and pay the required fee. You cannot drive until your privilege is restored in writing by the NH DMV and you hold a valid license.

As a first step towards clearing a New Hampshire License Suspension which was triggered by the Massachusetts Registry, you should contact the Suspension Section of the Massachusetts RMV at 857-368-8200 and provide the identification number listed in the letter from the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles. The Mass. RMV will advise you as to what needs to be done to clear the suspension.

The NH DMV, Bureau of Financial Responsibility must receive written documentation from the Massachusetts RMV that your suspension/revocation has been removed and that your driver’s license or non-resident operating privileges in Massachusetts have been restored, either by a full license reinstatement or the issuance of a Massachusetts hardship driver’s license. Also, the NH DMV requires those convicted of DUI to maintain liability insurance which is referred to as “financial responsibility” and documented by a certificate referred to as a “SR-22.”

Once you provide the New Hampshire Bureau of Financial Responsibility with proof of clearance from Massachusetts, the NH DMV will clear your NDR suspension from their system. You can reach the NH Bureau of Financial Responsibility at 603-271-3101.